December 29, 2007 Subject:
A Golden age of opera
This book is not a biography of Jean de Reszke, but a plain, year-by-year account of the opera seasons in London from 1874 to 1914.
Jean de Reszke was only one of the great singers who made these forty years a Golden age in the history of opera. In this fascinating account, the names of Emma Albani, Adelina Patti, Therese Tietjens, Zelie de Lussan, Edouard de Reszke, Emma Eames, Lillian Nordica, Nellie Melba, Enrico Caruso, Alessandro Bonci, Fernando de Lucia, Luisa Tetrazzini follow each other.
The long account of titles and names can be sometimes a bit dry, but between lines emerge clearly the portrait of a way to make opera which, according to the author's experience, had already vanished when World War II started in 1939. The information about singers' technique is extremely valuable, but even more interesting are the paragraphs about acting (there is a detailed description of the standard King Mark's arrival scene in "Tristan und Isolde" act 2) and about the lighting of the stage.
Today, Hurst's musical taste can puzzle the reader ("I dislike Madama Butterfly because I find it faintly common"), but is itself a valuable testimony of a cultural attitude which came directly from the Nineteenth Century.